Title: The Key in the Lock
Author: Beth Underdown
Release Date: 13/1/2022
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 31
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from Viking Books ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unfurling out of an upper window and a hectic orange light cascading across the terrace.
By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy – one whose death decades ago haunts her still.
For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.
Brimming with secrets, this lyrical haunting historical thriller is perfect for fans of Elizabeth Macneal, Sarah Waters and Diane Setterfield.
I am torn with this one as I found it an enjoyable and well written book but there was just something that wasn’t quite there for me to push it from a good book into a great book. I really enjoyed the initial set up, learning about the two timelines in 1888 and 1918 and how the world had changed and adapted during the thirty intervening years. We open with the loss of he main character’s son and how her grief and the ailing health of her husband causes her to reflect on the past and what was lost then also. The grief felt was handled beautifully and set the tone for the story as it continued.
Overall, I found that the book just fell a little flat as it continued. The pacing was incredibly slow and failed to drive any real tension, it was occasionally difficult to decipher between the ‘present’ and flashbacks with respect to the narrator character and I found the big twist underwhelming and predictable.
However, the prose itself and the characters kept me reading. I don’t confess any love for the main character. I didn’t particularly find her a likeable character and they way she treats he husband, who is misrepresented on several occasions is upsetting. I did find the flashbacks to Ivy’s past much more intriguing. It was definitely the more atmospheric of the two timelines. The introduction of Agnus, who forms the main crux of the mystery really kept my interest and I found myself wanting to learn more about what happened to her over the story of the main character. However, the promised mystery is never really delivered and just somewhat trails off. It seems we become lost in two different stories both of which end in a rather placid manor and no real tension or twist is revealed. The story just became a little muddy and lost the emotional investment it cultivated at the beginning.
I can see people who prefer a more sedate manor and just a light mystery to a more emotionally driven historical fiction really enjoying this.